We’ve both cooked with alcohol a fair bit (Mike probably more than I), but when it came down to it, there was only one choice for this prompt.
That’s right – BEER BREAD! I fell in love with beer bread around 12 years ago and I’ve been making it ever since. I was served beer bread at a Christmas brunch, of all things, and I was smitten. My host told me that she’d made it from a mix that her mom had sent from Connecticut. I knew there had to be a way to make it from scratch, though, so I started checking my cookbooks. I found a recipe in my old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook – I’ve had my copy for 20s years, but as a tween, I taught myself to bake from my parents’ old copy from the ’60s or ’70s (what I wouldn’t give to have that book now!) – and spent the next decade or so tweaking it.
At this point, I’ve adapted it heavily and consider it my own, and I’ll post my recipe for you at the bottom of this post.
I often go for a lighter-flavored beer in this recipe, so the bread isn’t overwhelmingly hoppy or bitter, but Mike picked up a lovely oatmeal stout made by Pike Brewing Co, a local and vegan-friendly brewery.
What a wonderful choice this turned out to be – the bread is flavorful and beery-yeasty without being at all bitter or overwhelming!
Now, I have to have a little interlude to tell you about one of my favorite tools:
This is a Danish dough whisk, and I love it. I bought it from King Arthur Flour, who says, “Unique flow-through design gently blends muffin, pancake, and other batters you don’t want to beat, for fear of toughening your baked treats.” And it’s true! I use it for quick breads, pancakes, waffles, and sometimes even biscuits. I particularly like it for my beer bread, because it’s important to get the batter just mixed when you’re incorporating the beer.
Now, I’ve never actually made this beer bread in cast iron before; I’ve always used a loaf pan. But MoFo calls for a little experimenting! So I mixed up my flours and leavenings, added nooch and herbs, tossed in some shredded cheese (this time, Parmela‘s sharp cheddar shreds), carefully mixed in that wonderful stout, and smooshed it into my 10.25 inch cast iron skillet, and tucked it into the oven – along with my wishes for a successful bake!
And y’all. Y’ALL.
Y’all, it’s the best beer bread I’ve ever made. It’s enticingly crunchy on the outside, possessing a heavenly texture inside, and perfectly baked, with none of the issues I’ve sometimes had with a loaf pan. It has that superb beer flavor I mentioned above, plus all sorts of interest-piquing and delightful tastes from the herbs, the nutritional yeast, and the cheese.
We had to test it – for science! for blogging posterity! – immediately. We had a warm slice with some homemade butter (a post about that coming another day!) melting on top.
By the way, if you love that dish anywhere near as much as we do, you can get your very own from the lovely and talented Jeanette Zeis!
Now here’s the recipe I promised!
Cheesy Herbed Beer Bread (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens’ New Cookbook)
serves 8-16, depending on how much restraint you have
2.5 c all-purpose flour
2.5 tsp baking powder
.5 tsp baking soda
.5 tsp salt (I used San Juan Island Sea Salt’s popcorn salt this time, but regular salt or even other flavored salts work just as well)
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
1.5 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano (I prefer Mexican oregano for this bread, but Turkish is also great)
.5 tsp basil
.5 tsp red pepper flakes (or more, or none)
1.5 c beer
1 c shredded vegan cheese (cheddars are nice, but other flavors would be just as good; you can always leave the cheese out, if you’d prefer – I often do)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch cast iron skillet (or an 8″ or 9″ loaf pan).
In a large mixing bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Mix in the shredded cheese, if using. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and slowly pour in the beer. Stir until just combined (a wooden spoon works well if you don’t have a kitchen tool lust problem like I do) – the batter should be lumpy but there shouldn’t be any dry patches or unmixed ingredients. If it’s a little too dry, add more beer a tablespoon or so at a time until the batter is fully moistened – and, hey, if you have to open another beer, well, now you have a beverage, too!
Dump (it’s a little too thick to pour) into your greased pan. If using the skillet, use a flat wooden spoon or a silicone spatula to smoosh it around so it reaches the sides and fills the pan (I don’t usually need to do this with a loaf pan). If using the skillet, bake for 30 minutes – a loaf pan will take 40-45 minutes – until golden. Set pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove the loaf from the pan and cool on the wire rack. The flavors of the herbs become even more pronounced when it’s cool, but it’s almost impossible to resist eating it warm with vegan butter melting into it.
This bread is so good with soup – all soup, every soup. It’s also my go-to bread with Sarra’s Southern-esque Comfort Food Dinner – yes, you really do want to use it to sop up gravy! And it’s pure bliss toasted for breakfast in the morning.
If you decide to make some, I’d love to hear how it turns out! I hope you love it as much as I do!
‘Til tomorrow, friends!
P.S. Sorry for the Belinda Carlisle earworms.
P.P.S. Not really.